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James Z. Feng
Actor , Director , Screenwriter
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Bittersweet -Part I Benny the Bull

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Bittersweet
 
This is dedicated to: Benny “The Bull” Ling, thanks for sharing your life experiences with me.
 
This is a story based on conversations with my friend Benny Ling.
Part I: Benny the Bull
     Last week while I was filming at the Strikeforce event around 11pm when I suddenly get a call from a blocked number, I was like wtf? Only time I ever get a blocked # is from my agent, and she never calls me this late. So I pick up the phone and I hear this dude screaming my name "JIMBOOOO". For the record, only two dudes in this world have ever called me Jimbo: my tennis coach Steve and an old friend Benny from Shanghai. It turns out it actually was Benny and he was calling me from San Francisco. I was excited since I haven't seen this dude for like 2 years. Benny is a huge Michael Jordan fan, so I penned him "Benny the Bull". He said that he was in town working an event in San Francisco as a guest host and wanted to see if we could hangout. I set a day for the week after to meet up for drinks in the Mission.    Before we go any further, let me give you a little(or a lot) background to this guy Benny. This dude is CRAZY! He is someone I consider to be one of the most interesting people I've ever met. The main reason I say that is due to his philosophy on life and our purpose in living(which I'll get into later) and the crazy stories he tells us when he's drunk. We became good buddies in China when he hired me to host live company events in Shanghai. He liked my style when I did the gigs and always invited me out to the clubs and bars. He owns an event company that is doing very well in Shanghai. I rejected his offers to hangout the first few times because I thought he looked arrogant and was definitely full of himself. I had no idea at the time he owned the company and thought he was just a small producer for the event company who paid the hosts. I thought he was a jackass since he acted like he owned everybody and didn’t treat people very well(I later found out he did). It was only a few events later did I start talking to him and finding out he’s a real chill guy. He even helped me get hooked up with some extra gigs in a few small commercials. He said he liked my straight shooter no BS style and wanted to do everything to help me and support my career. I really took that to heart and never rejected his offer to hangout again after that. Unlike most Chinese businessmen, he never forced me to drink or peer pressured me into doing anything. After the first time we hung out, I realized I had more in common with this guy than I thought. We quickly became buddies and would even ball it up on Saturday afternoons in Rucker Park(yes, there is an indoor gym in Shanghai called that).
    Benny turned out to be a real loyal dude who I became quiet close with on a few drunken occasions when he really opened himself up to me. I can’t ever say I really know the guy because I think he’s so elusive and doesn’t like people figuring him out. He’ll act all crazy one day, and be all different the next time you see him, it’s kind of weird to see him at work and when he’s out socializing, like a chameleon, he’s a totally different  person depending on the situation. He’s also a dude you could look in the face and know he’s been through a lot in life even though he isn’t that old. He’s got that young looking face with quite a few emotional scars  and a pair of sad eyes filled with feigned confidence.        For starters, Benny is 1/2 French and 1/2 Chinese. He speaks fluent French, English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Spanish. Very smart (both intelligence and street). He lives with his Shanghainese mom in Shanghai where she runs a very successful real estate business. He also has a bedroom in his event company where he sometimes stays when working late. His parents divorced when Benny was 3 years old due to some infidelity issues his dad had. During his childhood, Benny lived with his dad in the U.S. in New York City until he turned 11. His mom and dad had a deal where he can have Benny until he turned 11 and then he's suppose to be handed over to her until he turns 18 and goes off to college back in NYC(they swapped him during the summers). The reason for this arrangement was so that Benny could learn English and be fluent by the time he came back to Shanghai.     I really think the whole growing up from age 1-11 with his dad, and 11-18 with mom thing really messed him up. Being a half white/half Chinese person who can understand what everyone is saying about you sucks since people are always talking smack believing he doesn't understand. Locals didn't really accept him since he's not full Chinese. Only reason people were nice to him on the surface was because of his riches. He’s a good looking guy and all, but I know the girls he get are always after the money. He doesn’t care either because his family is so filthy rich that he’ll never run out of money no matter how much he spends. He reminds me of one of those dudes from those Taiwanese idol shows with long hair and get all emotional, lol. One Christmas when I came back to the states, I bought Benny a MJ North Carolina jersey. He was so excited that day that he treated me out to Japanese all you can eat. I think what Benny wanted was a real friend who could level with him instead of all these phonies wanting to hangout because he had the money and power to do things. I don’t ever think I became that close of a friend to Benny since I didn’t see him much, maybe once a month. When we did see each other or hanging out, it would be as we were best friends as he’d treat me a lot different than the rest of his crew.
    People kissed his ass because they knew he was a high roller and wanted to tag along when he was going out flipping the bill. Cool thing about Benny is that he sees through people and their motivations very quick, he just doesn’t care. He knows people are using him, but he doesn’t give a damn since he’s also using them to make himself look cool and having face(huge in Chinese culture). Talking to him, you can tell he's got a hard shell with a smart mind knowing exactly what’s going on in every situation. One time he fired our sound guy because he mixed up one of the speakers at an event and he fixed them himself. He later told me he’s studied everything part of event planning(including the technical equipment) in case something went wrong and needed to be fixed. He said saving the show even if he’s losing money was more important because having the clients happy was his #1 priority.
    With all his confidence, he definitely got a lot of hidden layers covering up his insecurities. One time I remember we were at a club and this girl he was with that night at was being hit on by some random guys. The next thing you know, Benny talked to the security guys and had those guys thrown the hell out of the club. I was shocked and thought "who the hell has just throws people out of a club when they want to? WTF?" It was then that I realized how powerful his family was. When I asked him what happened, he said “They didn’t know my name, that’s what happened”. I thought it was rather bizarre until I got to know him better later as he would do stuff like this to show off in front of people. I never liked that part about him, but I guess his childhood and lack of attention from his folks had a lot to do with that. He always felt like he needed to prove something to everybody.     Being the generous guy he is, Benny's the kind of dude that’ll get you in the nicest clubs and bars without paying a dime due to his status! I always enjoyed working for him too since he always paid me a stack of cash after each event. He'd always say to me "If you get sick of doing movies, come be my partner in my company, I produce, you host, I'll give you 25%." Most business people (esp. in the entertainment industry) talk a big game in Shanghai but ain’t got squat to back up their talk. The way Benny looked at me when he made me that offer assured me this dude was serious(I should've taken it! jk). He told me he started as a host himself and liked the event planning business for its fast pace and eventually had his mom buy out the company a year later. They spent a fortune on the buyout since it was a solid company that he worked for with an established list of clientele(Lumix, VW, Coke, Nike, etc...), but everything has a price tag and is sold when the price is right. His clientele were all big time companies that spent a fortune on their events and trusted Benny's company due to their track record.     Growing up, Benny's mom was always focused on her work and never cared much for him. His alternative included: a driver, a cook, a maid, and a LOT of money. Whatever he wanted, this dude pretty much could get it. He said he spent money like water since his family had so much of it and never gave a damn. He had like this entourage following him everywhere he went and would scrub off him like TLC. Being the adrenaline junkie he is, this cat did EVERYTHING: skydiving, snorkling, mountain climbing. In his mind, he believed that he was the man and had no regard for anyone else in the world. He was a pretty selfish SOB and you could tell by the way this dude walks around. He's always got like Air Jordans on and this special cell phone case across his waist to show people he's got the latest phone(in china, cell phones are a big deal if you got the latest one).    He was living the fly life until the one day when he got JACKED! Apparently, his act butted heads with some strangers in the club Guandii. He pissed off the wrong people while drunk and got stabbed 3 times by this Taiwanese dude that was a gang member. Luckily, the wounds weren't serious and he lived. After the stabbing incident, he said he stayed in more and didn't go out as much. He didn’t feel invincible anymore after that incident and definitely wised up.    He finished high school in Shanghai at an international academy before heading to NYU for college. He majored in English and came right back to Shanghai after he finished his 4 years there. Since Benny's a pretty good looking guy and also spoke all these languages, event companies coveted him to host their events and paid him a lot of money. He said he was quite famous in the event hosting business and made a lot of contacts with company heads, other event companies, etc. He would later use all that to his advantage after he bought out the event company he worked for. Benny played hard during the weekends but worked his ass off on weekdays to make sure all his events were going smooth.
    The few serious conversations we had while partying covered some really cool topics and I have to admit he really influenced and challenged my way of thinking by questioning mine and explaining his philosophies in life and how he came to formulate them. The most memorable conversation we had was over women. With all the women he's been with in his life, he said he didn't believe in marriage or any of that because he said he could never love one girl. I argued that it's because he hasn't met the one worthy. He said ever since he was 15 he's been sexually active but never had a serious relationship. I think he got mad or upset when I asked him if he thought any of this thinking had anything to do with his family background with his dad cheating on his mom(yeah, I felt ballsy that night). He felt really uncomfortable after I said that and made an excuse saying he needed to get back inside the bar. I stood outside that that night thinking about how complex this guy's mind must be with all the crazy ass stuff he's experienced. I could tell he’s hiding a lot of pain through everything he’s gone through but never had anyone to talk to about his stuff.
     I told him the next time I saw him that I thought he should write a book about his life and he said he’s considered it. Between all his sexual conquests and getting stabbed and being a ½ French ½ Chinese boy with divorced parents living in Shanghai, he could write a novel about his experiences and put that NYU English degree to work. He showed me a few drafts of some stories he wrote in college and said I could possibly use them in my future films. I really liked one which was practically a conversation between a son and his father’s ghost (not Hamlet). The conversation revolved around the boy’s frustration that the father was never there for him and how could he make up for anything now that he’s dead. I asked him if he got inspirations from his own relationship, he shrugged it off and went out for a smoke. I was beginning to see a pattern with this guy.
    The last time I saw Benny was at club MBox where he threw a small going away party for me. I told him it was no big deal and I’d be back in a few years, he said he’ll miss me hosting his events. Before I left the club that night, I gave him my USA phone # and told him to call me if he ever came to Cali to visit. Well, I never thought he’d actually come through.     
 
To be continued…

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Languages Spoken
english, mandarin, shanghainese
Location (City, Country)
San francisco, United States
Gender
male
Member Since
July 4, 2007